If you are worried about your impact on the environment, you can cut down on the amount of trash you make by switching from single-use bags and wraps to reusable food storage containers from Rubbermaid, Tupperware, and other companies. If you use them smartly, you can also reduce how much food you throw away. If you want to put them in the microwave, you will need to be a little careful.
Concerns About Microwaving in Plastic
Part of the reason it’s nice to store leftovers in plastic containers is that you can put them in the fridge or freezer and then put them in the microwave when you’re ready to eat them again. Some people worry, though, about the idea of microwaving food in plastic. There may be some truth to that: Not all plastics are made to be used in the microwave, so they might not work well there.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, which is a hardening agent, is also in the plastic, which could be a problem. It can get into food if it comes into contact with hot plastic and the food. There is no clear evidence that the levels of BPA allowed in food-safe containers are harmful, but the medical, scientific, and regulatory communities are keeping a close eye on it.
In the case of Rubbermaid containers, the company got rid of BPA in 2009 because people were still worried about it. All of its current food storage containers are BPA-free, so unless you just got a bunch of containers from an older relative that are decades old, you shouldn’t have to worry about what you have in your cupboard.
Most Rubbermaid lines are made to go from the fridge to the microwave. For example, the popular line of cheap and light Rubbermaid TakeAlongs can be used in the microwave. If you want to know for sure if a product can go in the microwave, look for the words “microwave-safe” or a microwave logo on the bottom. Either one means that you can use your container in a microwave.
Don’t Microwave Too Hot
It’s not enough to know that your container can go in the microwave. To keep yourself and your food safe, you’ll also need to know how to use the containers right.
When using a microwave, the most important thing to remember is that high heat is not your friend. Rubbermaid containers are made to be safe up to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature at which water boils. After that, they can melt or change shape.
Soup, which is mostly water, will never get above that temperature. Neither will things like leftover vegetables or meatloaf. Fats and sugar can get very, very hot in the microwave, which is not good. You shouldn’t reheat really fatty foods or syrups and sauces with a lot of sugar unless you only do it for a short time and someone is right there to watch. Don’t use your plastic containers to cook things like bacon.
Sometimes You Need to Vent
When you’re reheating food in the microwave is one of those times. Rubbermaid containers have tight-fitting lids to keep food fresh, and if you reheat them with the lid snapped on tight, you’re asking for trouble.
As the food inside gets hotter, the container can get pressurized. This could cause a lot of problems. One is that the lid might blow off and splash food all over your microwave. This is how pressure cookers work, but it can also cause the temperature inside the container to rise above the boiling point, which can damage the container. When you open the lid and all that superheated steam rushes out, there’s also a chance you could hurt yourself.
The trick is to leave at least one corner of the lid open so hot steam can get out. Some Rubbermaid containers, like the Microwave’n Savers, have a vent built into the lid that automatically lets air out when the container is heated. If you can’t see a pressure release vent on the lid of your product, it’s best to assume that you need to vent it by hand.
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